Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Debunking Gay Christian Apologetics [pt. 4]

The Abomination of Sodomy

Considering Leviticus 18 and 20

Briefly re-introducing the topic...

Earlier this year during the summer, I posted three articles interacting with gay "Christian" apologist, Rick Brentlinger, who maintains the Gay Christian 101 website. He had sent me an email challenging some things I had previously written against gay "Christian" revisionists who re-interpret the scripture to teach that God affirms homosexual relationships rather than condemns them.

At the time, I had one more post I wanted to write in response to Rick's email to me, but other interests came to the front; and honestly, there is only so much error a person can deal with in a period of time that one becomes quickly tired of messing with it. However, the current reaction of homosexual activists against proposition 8 in California, along with the many attempts by the media to paint the opponents of gay "marriage" as ignorant bigots and the Bible as being out-dated and problematic as a rule against homosexual sin, has compelled me to finish my initial thoughts against Rick.

After the passage of California's Proposition 8 which limits marriage as being only between a man and a woman, homosexual activists and their willing supporters in the national, mainstream media, have launched a full scale attack against supporters of Prop. 8 in order to smear them as being hateful and anti-progress. Moreover, homosexuals are attempting to equate their cause with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. That those individuals opposing the normalization of homosexual orientation, behavior, and the sanctioning of same-sex marriage, are the same as those racists in various areas of the south who refused equal rights to blacks.

Two examples come immediately to mind demonstrating these efforts. First, an insipid Hollywood produced musical available as a video on the internet. The musical features actor Jack Black as Jesus who asserts Bible-believing Christians have cherry picked and twisted various biblical citations condemning homosexuality. Christians are further mocked as being backward and small minded, foolishly believing the Bible which is really an old book with no relevance to our modern day culture.

Then secondly, a December 15th, 2008 Newsweek cover article that also attempts -- though poorly so -- to paint Bible-believing Christians as wrongly abusing scripture to justify their dislike for homosexuals. In fact, Newsweek editor, John Meacham, clearly lays the blame for anti-gay sentiment upon those who take the Bible way too seriously. He writes,

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism ... Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

In other words, anyone who claims to be a Christian, yet genuinely believes the Bible is an infallible revelation which clearly reveals that homosexual orientation and behavior is sinful against the God who gave us the Bible, is a person who is anti-modern culture and worse still, unworthy to be called a Christian. I guess in John Meacham's thinking, Christians throughout church history had never taken the Bible seriously as forbidding homosexuality until Focus on the Family went on the air some 30 odd years ago. What is even more galling about the article is how Lisa Miller, the primary author, and Meacham, neither who are biblical scholars, lecture Bible believing Christians from the very Bible they know absolutely nothing about from a lopsided perspective of liberal scholarship.

At any rate, among all the incendiary rhetoric Gay activists and their fawning allies in the mainstream media hurl toward evangelicals, the one portion of scripture always, without fail, complained against is Leviticus 18 and 20. In these two chapters of this OT book, homosexual behavior is described as a man lying with a man like he would a woman (meaning sexual intercourse) and God condemning the activity as being an abomination.

Generally, the objection raised against these two passages argues that since eating lobster and wearing clothing made of both wool and cotton is also considered an abomination in the book of Leviticus, and none of the Christians now-a-days abstain from eating lobster or mixed fiber clothing, it is then hypocritical of them to pick one abomination, homosexuality, as being sinful, yet cheerfully engage in other things that are an abomination, like eating shell fish. It is considered hypocrisy. Of course, one thing to notice about this objection is those who usually raise it are secular Jews who separate their misunderstanding of Leviticus from the commentary the NT provides on this section of scripture.

Rick also raised these similar objections to me in his email, so what I want to do is turn my attention to the gay "Christian" apologist perspective of Leviticus. Let us examine their arguments to see if they are legitimate. One thing to bear in mind as I work through the gay apologist arguments: Rick claims to be an evangelical. At least I see that clearly presented in various articles posted at his website. In other words, he claims to believe the Bible is a true, infallible, and a reliable source of authority for a Christian. So he would actually fall into that category of Bible believing Christians Miller and Meacham criticize in the Newsweek article who are intellectually bankrupt and unserious as a Christian. I find that a bit ironic. But moving along...

Introducing Leviticus

Before we even begin a review of the gay apologist revision of Leviticus 18 and 20, it may be a bit helpful to offer a brief overview of the book of Leviticus itself. Leviticus is certainly one of the more foreign books to our modern era because there is lots of descriptions of animals being slaughtered, people having to heave chunks of meat over their heads, boiling hunks of meat and stabbing it with a flesh hook, and burning animal fat and hair. PETA certainly wouldn't like this OT book. However, the book has a significant purpose. That being, proclaiming God's holiness and the requirements of holiness God demanded of His people Israel. Professor of the OT at Master's Seminary, Dr. William Barrick, provides a helpful summary outline of Leviticus,

Leviticus reveals that God called the Israelites to holiness in their worship and daily living as His chosen people. Chapters 1-7 present a sacrificial system that established an outward manifestation of individual and corporate covenant communion consistent with the divine standard of holiness. The sacrificial system facilitated the preservation of fellowship between the people of the covenant and their holy covenant God.

Next, chapters 8-10 define the priestly ministry. The priests were the caretakers of the covenant relationship. Chapters 11-15 move on to describe the purity of Yahweh requires of His people so that surrounding nations might recognize Israel's identification with Him. He summons His covenant community to a holy lifestyle distinct from that of neighboring nations. The annual renewal of this covenant relationship takes place on the Day of Atonement (chap. 16). That high holy day focuses on the sovereign rule of Yahweh over the nation of Israel. On the Day of Atonement the divine Suzerain blesses His covenant people by granting them His continued presence among them (16:16; cf. 1-2).

To ensure the covenant community's holiness, chaps. 17-24 prescribe obligatory ordinances. This legislation affects their diet, social relationships, religious leadership, calendar, and center of worship. The calendar (chap. 23) focuses on the seventh month with its three major observances (vv. 23-43). Eschatological overtones in the realm of kingship and kingdom are especially prominent in the New Year celebration (also known as the Feast of Trumpts, vv. 23-25). Then chapters 25 and 26 emphasize the monotheistic and sabbatical principles that comprise the two pillars of the Sinaitic Covenant (cf. 25:55-26:3 and Exod. 20:2-11). [William Barrick, The Eschatological Significance of Leviticus 26, TMSJ, Vol. 16, Num. 1, spring 2005, pp. 95-96].

Chapters 18 and 20 that specifically describe the proper behavior of sexual ethics among God's people fall into the section of the book prescribing community holiness. Personal holiness concerning individual sexual morality is emphasized in chapter 18, where as congregational holiness in the worship of Yahweh is emphasized in chapter 20. So the prohibition of homosexual activity, along with a few other illicit sexual activities, is needful for preserving the purity of Israel's covenant holiness on a personal, individual level, as well as in their corporate worship of Yahweh. God demands holy worshipers, and the reason a man lying with a man is an abomination is because it violates God's holiness.

In order to press how serious He is with expecting holy living and worship from His covenant people, God contrasts his demands for Israel with the illicit lifestyles of the pagan nations and the worship they gave their false gods. Dr. Walter Kaiser describes these pagan religious customs,

The formal introduction (18:1-5) repeats the solemn words of Israel's covenantal relationship three times, "I am the Lord your God" (vv. 2, 4, and in shorter form, v. 5). Obviously, the writer is alluding to Exodus 3:15 and 6:2-4 where God revealed his character in his name Yahweh, and to Sinai where God had called his people to be a "holy nation" and a "kingdom of priests." But this introduction also warned about the customs of the pagan nations Egypt and Canaan. The Canaanite Ugaritic texts even speak of gods copulating with animals, much less referring to bestiality among men. In fact, in Egypt, Rameses II claimed to be the son of the goat-god Ptah. Moreover, incestuous relationships abounded, as the Hammurapi Code and the Hittite laws indicate by the fact that it is necessary to prohibit some of the relationships banned in Leviticus 18. Homosexuality was also attested in Canaan (Gen. 19) and in Mesopotamia. [Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward Old Testament Ethics, p. 114]

What is clear in Leviticus 18 and 20 is the strong connection between the moral behavior of individual worshipers and the object they worship. Their religious worldview shaped their personal ethical conduct. False gods acting with depravity by engaging in sexual acts with men, or women, or even animals, will certainly beget followers who will likewise do the same. Yahweh, on the other hand, is the direct opposite from such false gods. Where as they are morally bankrupt, God is holy in character. Whereas the pagan nations who followed Molech and a host of other false gods led lives filled with illicit sexual behavior even apart from their worship of these gods, all Israel was to be separated unto the holy service of God in their personal conduct.

The Gay Revision of Leviticus

The typical way gay "Christian" apologists interpret these two chapters condemning homosexual behavior is that the prohibition against male same-sex intercourse written about in 18:22 and 20:13 is in the context of Molech worship. The men describe here are not lovingly committed same-sex couples who truly want to worship God, but are perverts involved in sexual prostitution commonly found in many false religions during that time. Thus, it is inaccurate to conclude this is merely homosexuals and same-sex intercourse being condemned in these two passages. What is an abomination is men giving themselves to sexual prostitution in the worship of a false god

Rick raises this argument in his initial email to me. He links me to a handful of articles on his website in which it is stated that loving, same-sex partnerships are not being condemned in these two passages, but it is specifically shrine prostitution that was perverting true worship of God. Rick even appeals to the word sodomy as it is used in other passages of scripture and directs his readers to some language studies -- albeit, by liberals who deny the infallibility of the Bible -- of the Hebrew word qedesh, which is the word translated in the KJV particularly as sodomite or sodomy. A truly faithful Bible student, argues Rick, will clearly see that no where in scripture does God condemn in any fashion lovingly committed same-sex partnerships.

The true re-interpreters of the Bible are misguided and bigoted evangelicals of the Focus on the Family stripe. In fact, Rick claims the modern day attempt to equate the abomination of shrine prostitution with the garden variety homosexuals of committed same-sex partnerships is something that never happened up until about a 100 years ago. So, according to Rick there is no historical precedent for the teaching God condemns homosexuality in the good sense as he has outlined on his website.

So How Does One Respond to This Argument?

Allow me to offer up five thoughts in response.

1) First, it needs to be noted that gay apologist rarely, if ever, present a positive defense for a biblical, sexual ethic. Their polemics are for the most part reacting to plain biblical texts like Leviticus 18 and 20, and re-interpreting them to justify their chosen lifestyle. As I outlined in the first response to Rick, in the whole of scripture, God has given clear, direct, and sufficient revelation as to who the participants are in a marital relationship. They are one man and one woman. Moreover, the Bible is clear as to what behavior constitutes sexual sin and what behavior doesn't. All illicit sexual activity mentioned in scripture like premarital sex, adultery, bestiality, and homosexual sex, is always described as being unholy and detrimental to the community of believers. For example here in Leviticus 18, a man lying with a man as with a woman is connected to a lifestyle as defined by a false god.

2) Along those lines, the scriptures never contrast ungodly same-sex behavior with what would be God honoring committed same-sex partnerships. Scripture always directs the standard for marital relationships back to God's creation of man and woman in Genesis 2. A marriage between one man and one woman is the God ordained pattern. Christ affirms this to the Pharisees in Matthew 19, and Paul reiterates it to his readers in Ephesians 5. Thus, all sexual sin discussed in scripture like fornication, rape, incest, adultery, homosexuality, etc., is shown as a departure from that ordained pattern. It is extremely telling to see a complete absence from the Bible of God defining the a so-called lovingly committed same-sex partnership as Rick calls it, and that model being contrasted with the perverse idol worshiping shrine prostitution Rick says the Bible is really condemning in Leviticus 18 and 20.

3) There is also a significant internal inconsistency with the gay apologist argument from Leviticus. Now, according to gay apologetics, what is considered an abomination in Leviticus 18 and 20 is the fact that the homosexual sex act is performed in the worship of the false god Molech. This homosexuality, claims Rick, IS to be rightly condemned because it is shrine prostitution. It is then concluded that homosexual sex between a God honoring, committed same-sex couple is not to be condemned.

However, listed with homosexual sex in Leviticus 18 and 20 are the sins of bestiality, adultery, incest, and other degrading sex acts. Are we to conclude then, that what makes these other listed activities sinful is because they are performed in the worship of the false god Molech? That anywhere else these sins are condemned, say for example adultery by Jesus in Matthew 5:27, 28, that what is in mind is adultery performed during the worship of a false god? In other words, as long as a person isn't copulating with an animal or committing adultery in the worship of a false god, that such behavior is fine with God? In this instance, the gay apologists are cherry-picking which sins are truly sinful and which ones are not. In a manner of speaking, they are doing exactly the same thing they accuse evangelicals of doing with the book of Leviticus.

4) One major troubling part of Rick's argument for Leviticus 18 and 20 is his dependence upon liberal, higher critic scholarship by individuals who certainly do not consider the Bible inspired, inerrant, or infallible in any fashion. In fact, liberal scholarship is commonly appealed to by gay revisionists who wish to make the Bible say something entirely different than what it is saying. Rick claims he is a Bible believing Christian and in the one interview where I have heard him defend his position, he confirms his commitment to the scriptures as an authoritative revelation from God. But in the process of building his pro-gay apologetic, rather than considering the vast body of research and literature on the original biblical grammar and the history of the interpretation of the Torah by both Jews and Chrsitians who would be conservative and evangelical in their convictions, he appeals to "scholarship" from people who, a) don't believe the Bible is reliable to begin with, and b) produce contorted linguistic studies which conclude the opposite of what the Bible really teaches regarding homosexuality and human sexual ethics in general.

5) Then lastly, Rick's gay revision of Leviticus does not seriously consider the emphasis of holiness of God presented in the entire book. As I cited above, Leviticus establishes God's holy character. His holy character is revealed by describing those behaviors and actions He deems as an abomination, or odious to His person and the attributes which define who He is as God. On account of God's holy character, He demands holy worship from His people. Being the creator of humanity, God has determined through the creation ordinance the expression of human sexuality in a marital relationship between a man and a woman as the first book of the Torah, Genesis, describes. Thus, any expression of sex that falls outside these divinely determined parameters violates God's holiness. Whether or not the abomination is temple prostitution is really irrelevant to the overall picture of God revealed in the book. God has determined the participants and the boundaries for a true sexual relationship. Homosexual sex, either in the context of shrine prostitution, or in a so-called committed same-sex partnership as Rick explains, is a departure from God's ordained creation of men and women.

Rick and other gay revisionists diminish the significance of God's holiness as presented in Leviticus. They further diminish the discussion of these sins in light of God holiness in other sections of scripture like Romans and 1 Corinthians by attempting to apply a similar interpretation to those NT passages as well. But, homosexual sex is still an abomination to God because even though much of the legislation which governed the OT theocratic nation of Israel has been laid aside at the coming of Christ, God's holy character transcends both testaments, and those sinful actions that were described as an abomination to His character in Leviticus are still an abomination today.



Blogger Joshua said...

I am no Bible scholar or anything, but have you ever looked at Romans 1:26-28. This may also help too. I don't really know. God Bless You for all that you do.

Soli Deo Gloria

1:03 PM, December 21, 2008  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Fred,

What's the best refutation of the specious "Shellfish" argument that you know of?

I keep seeing it repeated over and over again in various blogposts, threads, and contexts.

Thanks in advance.

12:31 AM, December 28, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I hope to put together a post addressing a handful of the key questions I have been receiving from folks via private email regarding my 4 posts answering Rick. Someone else asked the same question, so I want to devote a few comments to it. Give me a little bit and I will have something more solid.

In short, because Christ coming has put an end to the food laws (Acts 10) which were necessary to keep Israel separate from the pagan cultures around them, where as man's holy conduct as expressed in his sexual nature in which God has created him transcends both testaments.

6:38 PM, December 28, 2008  
Blogger Dan said...

As Bretlinger examples, almost all pro-homosexual polemicists must seriously attack the moral integrity of the Bible in order to overcome the fact that homosexual relations are only condemned wherever they are explicitly dealt with, and nowhere is marriage or approved homosex established in the Scriptures. Like the harlot whose covetousness constrained her to assent to the destruction of a child rather than let her opposing claimant have it (1Ki. 3), the end result of pro-homosex polemics is that it effectively negates the authority of the very source they seek to use for their own purposes.

Butler rightly exposes that specious nature of the attempt to restrict homosex to formal idolatry. Yet it is linked, as idolatry is the mother of all sins, as whatever it your chief source of security, or object of spiritual affect, perhaps loving pizza over the Bible, we are in fact confessing that our flesh is god. One may however, sin in ignorance by supposing a sinful act or attitude is acceptable to God, but motive will not sanctify things which God has declared are sinful, regardless of motive. And laws against sex with unlawful partners belongs to that class.

In Romans 1, homosexual relations are presenting a form of "natural idolatry" in which just as souls exchanged the one true God, with whom man (unlike animals) is made to have exclusive spiritual union with, (Jer. 3:14; 1Cor. 6:16,17; Eph. 5:31,32) for one made in accordance with perverted affections, so they consequently were given over to exchanging what partners which they were exclusively designed and decreed to have sexual union with, for partners of perverted desire, contrary to nature which God established. In both cases, "orientation" may be claimed, but such desire, and acting upon it is condemned. [Note: "lust" as in Rm. 1:24, is not restricted to that of a sexual nature, but more widely applies to any sinful desire, as seen by Rm. 6:12; 13:14; Eph. 2:3 (in fulfilling the desires); Col. 3:5 (distinguishes "evil" lusts), and may denote holy desire (Mt. 13:17; Lk. 22:15; Phil. 1:23; 1Thes. 2:17) Thus lust in Rm. 1:24 can include any homosexual affection.]

6:57 AM, July 19, 2009  

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